Bengaluru, October 21: The FIM MotoGP World Championship riders' Championship may already have been decided before the paddock arrived at the Twin Ring Motegi, but the Motul Grand Prix of Japan saw plenty of milestones.
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) took a commanding victory to wrap up the constructors' Championship for Honda, Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) pushed him as hard as he could and took second to secure Rookie of the Year and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) pounced on Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) to take his 100th Grand Prix podium.
It wasn't the perfect getaway for polesitter Marquez but he held his advantage into Turn 1, with Quartararo braking later to get underneath his team-mate Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and start his stalking of the reigning champion early.
But that allowed the fast-starting Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) to grab P3 on the exit of Turn 2, and a frantic opening lap then unfolded as Quartararo passed Marquez for the lead only for the number 93 to pounce back at the tight Turn 10. It was a late lunge from the Honda man as the duo ran slightly wide, with Quartararo looking for the cutback but almost losing the front, foot slipping into the air. That gave third place Miller a sniff at second, but the door quickly closed and the Aussie almost hit the back of the Frenchman ahead.
At the front, meanwhile, Marquez had pulled the pin. Eight tenths were his advantage over Quartararo as the duo started to break clear of the chasing pack, that then becoming a second as the rookie hovered close but not quite close enough. Further behind, the battle for the final place on the podium was getting intense, however, with Miller holding P3 as Morbidelli, Vinales and Dovizioso all started to close in...
As the final few laps appeared on the horizon, Quartararo had been dropped by Marquez but the Frenchman would need to be careful.
On the last lap, everything suddenly tightened up as Marquez cruised round for the win and Quartararo closed in; Dovizioso closing in on him...but the Italian couldn't quite get close enough to make a final lap lunge. Marquez took the win, Quartararo second and Dovizioso third, all with big reasons to spray the prosecco with a smile on the podium: manufacturer glory, rookie genius and a century of rostrum finishes.
Rossi misses out
Vinales took fourth after just being denied the podium, ahead of Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) in P5 as the Brit beat Morbidelli by 0.047 on the run to the line to grab his first top five finish since the Czech GP.
One name noticeably absent from that run down is that of nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), who had a tough race that then ended early in a crash, as was the situation for Andrea Iannone (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini).
It had become a Dovizioso vs Vinales for the final rostrum place, with two different machines making for an interesting concertina of a duel.
For Dovizioso, it was his 100th podium after he fought off Vinales.
Step two of three is now complete with the riders' and constructors' titles sewn up, can they catch Ducati in the team standings?
It's not long to go until the riders are back out on track at Phillip Island for the eight-time champion to try and go one better. Tune in next weekend for the Pramac Generac Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix.
(By a special arrangement with Dorna Sports)